Gary Player, golfer laureate

5 June 2003

Gary Player, one of the greatest golfers of all time and one of only five professionals to have won golf’s grand slam of all four major championships, was presented with the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award at the fourth annual Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony, held in Monaco on 20 May 2003.

The Award was presented to Player by his fellow Laureus World Sports Academy member, England football legend Sir Bobby Charlton, who said: “The person the Academy is honouring this evening with the treasured Lifetime Achievement Award started out in his sport exactly 50 years ago. I have followed his career from his first major victory, and it’s astonishing that he is still going strong.

“He has admitted that he was not naturally gifted at the sport, which was to become his life, but nobody in any profession has worked harder to first of all conquer his sport, and then conquer the world. I cannot think of anyone who has been more disciplined and dedicated over such a long stretch of time, and even now, 50 years on, he is still playing a mean and magnificent game.”

The annual Laureus World Sports Awards, established in 2000, is the only worldwide awards ceremony to honour the world’s best sportsmen and women for their achievements across all disciplines. Its charitable arm, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, funds and promotes sport as a tool for social change around the world.

A true legend of golf, Player has won over 160 titles worldwide, including three British Opens, three US Masters, two US PGA championships and the US Open. He is the only modern player to win the British Open in three different decades. He joined the Senior PGA Tour in 1985 and has since won 23 times worldwide.

He was named South Africa’s Sportsman of the Century in 2000, was inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame in 1974, and was named an Honorary Member of the Royal & Ancient at St Andrews in 1994.

Additionally, Player operates The Gary Player Foundation an organisation dedicated to promoting education. The Foundation built the Blair Atholl Schools in Johannesburg, South Africa, which have educational facilities for over 500 students.

After receiving the Award, Player said: “When we leave here one day, they won’t want to know how many great tournaments we won or how many records we broke. You can only make the world a better place if you give it something.

“If I may leave with one message tonight – and I know all my fellow Academy members agree with me – there’s no question that there are prejudices against women in the world today and we as a group are doing everything in our power to eliminate this.”

Previous winners of the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award include Sir Peter Blake (2002), Sir Steven Redgrave (2001), and football legend Pele (2000).

Player, along with fellow South African Morne du Plessis, is also a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a team of 41 legendary sportsmen and sportswomen who have volunteered their services to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

The Foundation currently supports 18 projects worldwide, including two in Cape Town, South Africa:

 

  • Street Universe. This project helps over 400 street children in Cape Town to develop a long-term self-sustainable lifestyle. Sports include soccer, sailing and outward-bound activities, while the educational focus is on fighting Aids, drugs problems, poor health and crime. 
  • Helderberg Project. Children between 10 and 18 receive sports’ coaching at the Helderberg Sports Academy ‘irrespective of their ability to pay, while social workers use the opportunity to raise awareness of the problems of juvenile sexual abuse with the young people and parents.Nelson Mandela, speaking about the work of the Foundation at the inaugural awards in Monaco in 2000, said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair.”

    Four National Laureus Sport for Good Foundations have been established in Germany, Monaco, South Africa and the US, and further National Foundations are being launched this year in France, India and South America.

    Laureus World Sports Academy chairman, Olympic track legend Edwin Moses, said: “This is only the start … I know how enthusiastic the Academy members are about this work. They all know how important sport is as an inspiration to our young people and we feel we can make a real impact.”

    Source: Laureus World Sports Awards

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